This doesn't really surprise me much.
Europeans have been infamous in the past for playing games with import regulations. There was a time when each and every videorecorder imported into France was unpacked, plugged in and then a series of tests were run on it; this all in a small customs office in the middle of France.
The goal is generally to stop imports from coming in without making it really obvious that artificial constraints are being set up. From what I can gather, this is aimed directly at the independent auto importer, invariably someone who imports US cars for auto freaks looking for that special car that simply isn't available via official import channels.
But why US cars in this manner?
It probably boils down to a bureaucrat who has decided that he is going to close what few loopholes are left in import laws (some of these include not paying duty on goods when you move to Europe, as they are used household goods, as well as special import waivers for vintage cars and the like that cannot meet modern safety regulations, but are imported on the basis of their collectability and not directly on their basis of usability as a daily means of transportation.
And re-reading the story, it has to do with the cars imported not meeting "European culture" standards. Oh, and I see now who is behind it: Renaat Landuyt, the Belgian Minister of Mobility.
The Minister of Mobility? Ok, Minister of Mobility and Transport. Still: having a Minister of Mobility in a country that is suffering from a total lack of political mobility is nothing less than...ironic. See this for what happens to people who dare to question the status quo and who dare to be sceptical. Play the game or be banned for life.
This is what the guy looks like. Here is where you can get in touch with him.
And this tells you all you need to know about him: his interest in politics was "awakened" on 11 Sep 1973 when he saw the picture of Allende with a weapon in his hand refusing to surrender.
I wonder if he knows that Allende was in the pay of the KGB at the time and had been for some while?
And looking back once again, it's obvious. We have a political decision that is indefensible if it were to come up under the GATT: a minister deciding, arbitrarily, that a particular kind of car isn't appropriate for his country and simply stopping their imports by putting up all sorts of red tape.
Ignoring international trade agreements. Ignoring consumer demand. Ignoring free trade principles.
But the Europeans are soooo much more enlightened than Americans, you know. Who cares what the people want! We know better. And we don't need to go through any sort of law-making procedure (that get nasty when someone reads them...), and we don't need to get the courts involved either. We, the royal We of European Socialism, simply decide that it is so, and it is so.
I think Belgian chocolate is about the best in the world. But that's the last time I eat Belgian chocolate until this changes.